ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the Denver Broncos were set to wind down Tuesday’s practice, their first day of this week's mandatory three-day minicamp, they were rolling through some red zone work and offered up a glimpse of what they hope can be a reliable offering in the near future.
Their prized rookie receiver, Cody Latimer, was lined up with the starters in a three-wide receiver set as the Broncos worked from the endzone’s doorstep. At the snap, quarterback Peyton Manning quickly found Latimer on the inside and the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder blasted through the traffic for what had the appearance of a scoring play.
It was just the kind of look at Latimer the Broncos have been waiting for. Tuesday was the most extensive work Latimer has done in team drills since the Broncos made him a second-round pick in the May draft. Latimer had surgery Jan. 19 to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot and the Broncos have limited him some as he works his way back, having put him in individual drills much of the time.
"It’ll progress, his team reps picked up," said Broncos head coach John Fox following Tuesday’s practice. " ... We want to be smart, especially this time of year, but he’s been very impressive in what I’ve seen him do."
Latimer, who said he simply "felt a pop" in the foot during a pre-draft workout, did not work out at the league’s scouting combine and did not do a complete pro day workout on campus in the week leading up to the draft. But he did run a 40-yard dash on the still-healing foot that was hand-time by some scouts in attendance at 4.39 seconds, which would have made him one of the fastest receivers at the combine had he run a similar time in Indianapolis.
Overall, many scouts believed Latimer was one of the best receivers on the draft board in any contested ball situation -- the so-called "50-50 ball" -- and he rarely dropped passes, in practice or in games, during his career at Indiana. With the signing of Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, the Broncos are poised to have more speed and and size on the depth chart at the position than they did last season when Manning threw a single-season record 55 touchdown passes and the Broncos scored a league record 606 points.
Latimer has made the most of opportunities to get down to the details of the offense, to ask when he needs to know the answer, something both offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Manning encourage the young players to do. Or as Manning has put it; "If you don’t ask, I’m going to assume you know."
Latimer can often be seen during practice talking to Manning and the team’s veteran receivers. And Manning has done some post-practice work with the rookie during some of the OTA practices.
"As a veteran player you like to see a young guy asking questions, not being shy," Manning said. " ... I think he’s been good that way. The more he can get out there ... just the more reps he can get, the better he’ll be."